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Doctors Talk Frankly About What Encourages and Impedes Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's
Date:7/12/2009

damaging the doctor-patient relationship, especially around the issue of declaring the patient's inability to drive safely.

"Older patients frequently have complex and overlapping illnesses involving multiple body systems. Often these diseases are having a bigger impact on their day to day lives than mild cognitive impairment. As a result, when they see the doctor, their priority is to have their non-cognitive health needs addressed," Paterson said.

According to the study, this is especially true if the person is also a caregiver. GPs reported that caregivers tend to downplay their own needs and behave as though they cannot afford to become ill and give up their caregiving role. They reported that caregivers spend most of their appointments discussing the person for whom they are a caring, and not their own health needs.

If a patient appeared to be functioning well, GPs in this study were less likely to suspect cognitive impairment. GPs reported that a cognitive deficit is more often brought to their attention by a relative or caregiver than by the patient; an informant is seen as vital for early diagnosis.

GPs also identified that they find it difficult to remember to re-offer referral to Alzheimer's support services to patients and caregivers. GPs generally suggest these services soon after the diagnosis is made. However, patients and caregivers are still adjusting to the diagnosis at this time and may be suffering from denial, anger and guilt and often reject the referral. When they are ready to accept support, the GP is often unaware that their attitude has changed.

The researchers recommend that doctors should be educated to have a higher level of suspicion for symptoms of cognitive decline, especially in caregivers and people with complex, multi-system diseases, and that GPs should offer referrals to support services for people with dementia and caregiv
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SOURCE Alzheimer's Association
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